A vision of the future that gives the working class a chance to get even.


When the largest and most audacious housing project in history crashes to the ground, a new culture is born, for good or bad.

Adams’ debut novel is a dystopian nightmare that is metaphorical in nature but has a compelling story, a recognizable villain, and a few key characters whose personality traits make them interesting. The setting is Los Verticalés, a nearly 500-story architectural marvel of its time; or, to be more accurate, what’s left of it after the unprecedented housing complex crashed to the ground under its own weight. What the salvage crew unaffectionately calls “the Heap” is nothing but an enormous pile of rubble punctuated by the occasional dead guy. Weirdly, there’s a single survivor: DJ Bernard Anders, who mysteriously still has electricity and broadcasts regularly to a wide audience from somewhere in the rubble. Meanwhile, interstitial excerpts from a history of "the Vert" titled The Later Years give context to the monolith’s rise and fall. The novel’s story centers on the “Dig Hands,” the poor souls recruited to shovel their way through the biggest recycling project in the world. The link to Bernard is his brother, Orville, digging relentlessly and carrying on nightly conversations with his brother over the radio. Orville’s companions include Hans, the photographer who emotionally captures his subject, and Lydia, who is trying to work her way up the community’s political structure. There are a couple of bad guys here—Hal Cornish, from the company that runs the radio station, wants Orville to converse with his trapped brother for the highest ratings, at any cost, while Peter Thisbee, the mogul who built the Vert in the first place, plays at redemption while working his own machinations to profit off his fallen monolith. It’s distressing that we have so many bleak visions of the future these days but at least here people are given a chance to dig themselves out of the hole that the upper class made.

A vision of the future that gives the working class a chance to get even.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-295773-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.


The time is the not-so-distant future, when the US's spiraling social freedoms have finally called down a reaction, an Iranian-style repressive "monotheocracy" calling itself the Republic of Gilead—a Bible-thumping, racist, capital-punishing, and misogynistic rule that would do away with pleasure altogether were it not for one thing: that the Gileadan women, pure and true (as opposed to all the nonbelieving women, those who've ever been adulterous or married more than once), are found rarely fertile.

Thus are drafted a whole class of "handmaids," whose function is to bear the children of the elite, to be fecund or else (else being certain death, sent out to be toxic-waste removers on outlying islands). The narrative frame for Atwood's dystopian vision is the hopeless private testimony of one of these surrogate mothers, Offred ("of" plus the name of her male protector). Lying cradled by the body of the barren wife, being meanwhile serviced by the husband, Offred's "ceremony" must be successful—if she does not want to join the ranks of the other disappeared (which include her mother, her husband—dead—and small daughter, all taken away during the years of revolt). One Of her only human conduits is a gradually developing affair with her master's chauffeur—something that's balanced more than offset, though, by the master's hypocritically un-Puritan use of her as a kind of B-girl at private parties held by the ruling men in a spirit of nostalgia and lust. This latter relationship, edging into real need (the master's), is very effectively done; it highlights the handmaid's (read Everywoman's) eternal exploitation, profane or sacred ("We are two-legged wombs, that's all: sacred vessels, ambulatory chalices"). Atwood, to her credit, creates a chillingly specific, imaginable night-mare. The book is short on characterization—this is Atwood, never a warm writer, at her steeliest—and long on cynicism—it's got none of the human credibility of a work such as Walker Percy's Love In The Ruins. But the scariness is visceral, a world that's like a dangerous and even fatal grid, an electrified fence.

Tinny perhaps, but still a minutely rendered and impressively steady feminist vision of apocalypse.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 1985

ISBN: 038549081X

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1985

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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